The first four books of the New Testament are known as the Gospels. These books tell us about the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. They are named for their authors: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
Each Gospel is about the same character and the same general narrative, and so they all share several elements:
- Statement of Jesus’ deity near the beginning (Mt 1:23; Mk 1:1; Lk 1:32–35; Jn 1:1)
- John the Baptist’s ministry (Mt 3:1–3; Mk 1:2–4; Lk 3:2–3; Jn 1:6–7)
- Jesus’ baptism (Mt 3:13–17; Mk 1:9–11; Lk 3:21-22; Jn 1:29–34)
- Jesus’ miracles and teachings (Mt 4–25; Mk 1–13; Lk 4–19:27; Jn 2–17)
- Jesus’ betrayal, trial, and death (Mt 26–27; Mk 14–15; Lk 19:28–23:56; Jn 18–19)
- Discovery of Jesus’ resurrection (Mt 28:1–15; Mk 16:1–8; Lk 24:1–12; Jn 20:1–10
- Encouragement and commission for Jesus’ disciples (Mt 28:16–20; Mk 16:9–20; Lk 24:13–53; Jn 20:11–21:23)
The story of Jesus from 4 perspectives
However, the Gospels are written by different individuals for different audiences with different purposes:
Matthew is the story of Jesus, King of the Jews. This Gospel is written primarily for a Christian Jewish audience. Matthew dwells on Christ’s fulfillment of Moses’ Law, and therefore involves many Old Testament prophecies.
The book of Mark is the brief summary of Jesus’ ministry on earth as the Son of God. Mark’s Gospel is arranged to be easily read, remembered, and spread. It’s very action-oriented (the word “immediately” shows up frequently), and of the four gospels, Mark reads most like a story.
Luke is the historical, journalistic Gospel. This account of Jesus’ life in chronological order is written to establish believers in the teachings of Jesus. Luke includes a great deal of details in his gospel, making it the longest of the four—and the longest book in the New Testament.
John is the persuasive Gospel. John records a certain amount of signs emphasizing the deity of Jesus Christ so that the reader may believe in Jesus and find life in Him. John’s gospel takes a different approach to Jesus’ life. Instead of beginning with His birth (like Matthew and Luke) or earthly ministry (like Mark), John starts with Jesus’ work at the beginning of creation.
As you read the Gospels, watch how Jesus interacts with different groups of people. Listen to how He handles the Old Testament. Absorb His messages and warnings. And rejoice that God sent His beloved Son to seek and to save the lost.